A mentally ill suspect who barricaded himself in a police car and fired a shot at officers in Garden Grove after taking advantage of a defective vehicle partition and a failed rifle locking mechanism was charged Thursday with a host of felony offenses.

Stephen Eric Matthews, 33, of Garden Grove was charged with assault with a firearm on a peace officer, shooting from a motor vehicle, discharging a firearm with gross negligence, unlawful possession of a firearm in public and vandalism with over $400 in damage, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Matthews is due to be arraigned Friday morning in Santa Ana. If convicted as charged, he could be sentenced to 10 years and four months in state prison, according to Michelle Van Der Linden of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

An Orange County Mental Health worker on Tuesday night called police to the area of 13th and Brookhurst streets where a patient staying at Morningside Recovery, a drug and alcohol treatment facility, was acting psychotic, Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney said. Officers arrived around 9:25 p.m. and were asked to stand by as the worker conducted an evaluation, Whitney said.

The worker determined the man needed to go to another facility for further evaluation and officers had the man wait in a police car until an ambulance arrived. The man was not under arrest and was not handcuffed, Whitney said.

While in the back of a police car, the man gained access to the front of the cruiser where he took possession of a semiautomatic patrol rifle, Whitney said.

“Officers realized the male was now holding the rifle and ordered him to put it down,” Whitney said.

The man fired one shot, which went through the windshield, prompting officers to evacuate the area and call SWAT officers to the scene. No injuries were reported and officers did not return fire, Whitney said.

After several hours of negotiation, the suspect surrendered at 12:41 a.m. Wednesday and was taken into custody, Whitney said.

“The plexi-glass partition separating the front portion of the police car from the rear was defective,” Whitney said. “The locking mechanism failed and this allowed Matthews to reach into the front portion of the police car. Mathews was able to disengage the rifle from its locked position in the front passenger compartment.”

Whitney said that the cruiser was inspected “and corrective measures have been taken, including a review of (department) policies and procedures.”

–City News Service

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